Headlines: October 14th, 1999

The Local Government Association has criticised a report by the Audit Commission as misleading and out of date. The Commission’s findings on truancy and exclusion from school are based on research carried out early in 1999 and it is claimed that much has change in more recent months.It is estimated that every day, around 400,000 pupils are not in school. At least 40,000 are absent without school permission, 3,000 pupils are on short exclusions and around 6,000 have been permanently excluded. The report describes Local Education Authorities as poor at collaborating with social services and other agencies and equally poor at internal co-ordination. In many Authorities there is inadequate data to allow preventive work to be targeted or to find out what corrective measures work best.

Funding to tackle truancy and exclusion is to be increased in 2000/01 from 66 to 140 million pounds. The additional funds will support prevention strategies to reduce disaffection in the classroom. Measures that have been found to work well includeelectronic monitoring of attendance, pagers for parents and on-site learning support units for disruptive pupils.

Clear evidence has now emerged that absentee pupils move on into adult life to form a significant proportion of the long-term unemployed and a major element of the prison population.